I Have Been Here Before review at Palace Watford
JB Priestley’s work explored territory which was quite revolutionary and this is one of his more ground-breaking efforts. He became fascinated by mind boggling theories within metaphysics, particularly those which delved into areas such as parallel universes, dual existence and the nature of time itself.
So here we have the potentially mundane setting of a quiet B&B on the Yorkshire Moors which soon transcends into a scenario which is anything but conventional. A mysterious German doctor (Gordon Langford-Rowe) turns up acting strangely, totally baffling the simple folk who run the place, played with nicely observed, subtly comic performances from Roger Bingham as the bluff, good-natured Sam and Candida Gubbins as his daughter Sally. The doctor’s behaviour grows increasingly intriguing as his initially dismissed predictions begin to come true, all part of an experiment he is conducting to prove his conclusions about the structure of existence and free will.
The other guests are pawns in this game. A married couple, the Ormunds, are having relationship difficulties, a situation which is dramatically complicated when the young wife, played in the required skittish manner by Jenny Ogilvie, becomes involved, in a pre-destined way, with a rather stiff young teacher. This all emerges into a neatly tied up package which intelligently explores the concepts of deja-vu, fate and Einsteinian ideas.
It is a play which requires many words of explanation but Priestley succeeds in not making it too complicated, although it does require concentration. The performances are all fine, in the case of John Hodgkinson, as the powerful but insecure Ormund, first class. Inventive design by Patrick Connellan makes a significant contribution. Written in 1937, the quaint style of the period is evident but all this adds to the charm of an outing that is certainly worthwhile for the open-minded.
Palace, Watford, February 24-March 19
- JB Priestley
- Jeremy Bond
- Watford Palace
- Roger Bingham, Candida Gubbins, John Hodgkinson, Gordon Langford-Rowe, Jenny Ogilvie, Adam Smethhurst
- Running time
- 2hrs 15mins